Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Another 101 Update - Greening and Growing

Well, I seem to be updating my list in themes, the last one being food related, this one is going to be related to being green, both sustainably speaking and biologically speaking, since I likely won't have much to add to this area of my list until next year.
I must say, for my first time gardening and composting, pretty much allowing myself a 'test season', I think I did pretty good!

83. Grow my own food; vegetables, fruit, herbs (NTKOG)
First I should probably explain why I labelled this a NTKOG list item. It's not that I didn't love the idea of a vegetable garden, we grew up renting a house in Edmonton where the owner had corn, peas, carrots, potatoes, and raspberries growing behind the garage and I loved it! Not just the yummy fresh food but I just loved being in the garden, the smells, the fascination of growing food, etc. Then after moving to Steinbach I discovered my grandma's large garden that I also loved picking from, and getting the canned goods that came from it as well that were so delicious. Trouble is, with my first planting experience, with just some small house plants, I seemed to just keep killing them, I was pretty sure I had a black thumb! So I just resigned myself to never being able to keep plants alive. That is until I actually started desiring a simpler and greener life and figured, what they hey, I will try again. First of all, outdoor plants aren't a solo job, and I figured I'd test it out at least once.
So, with a yard that actually had some room for a garden, and some tips, courtesy of Google, on growing the few items I wanted to try, I started some seedlings inside this last April. It was recommended I should plant them outdoors May long, which I was going to do but we started getting really heavy rains all the way through to the first weekend in June, when I finally planted them outside, but even then, just a few days later we got another really heavy rain storm and strong winds.
These poor little tomato and cucumber seedlings I had grown so lovingly inside were about 3 inches high when I planted them outside June 2, but after that rain they disappeared and never returned! My potatoes planted this same weekend did last, in this pic they are on the left, underground.
Then July 1st we went to our first Farmer's Market in St. Norbert and tomato plants were only $1.39-2 each! So I bought 3 beefseak plants and 3 Manitoba tomato plants, here they are, a little wilted, at the top left and right of the pic, planted on July 4th. I also found oregano, the one with purple flowers near the middle, and my potatoes are at the very bottom of the picture.
I've always loved the idea of a herb garden as well, cutting little clippings to flavor each meal with the taste of fresh spices. I also found basil, chives, and parsley at the Farmer's Market, and planted that as well, they are in the front milk carton, so I could take it inside during bad weather. In the tall milk carton was a clove of garlic I also planted. That one didn't do so well, the dirt kept growing mould so I composted it after a few weeks.
Here's my flourishing, and blooming, garden the last week in July-ish.
Here's my first produce, a tomato and small potato, from the first week in August.
This is half my potato crop that I harvested last night! And I've picked 3 other tomatoes, and have about 7 more still growing. I'm very excited about my produce and can't wait to try more next year! I've learned a lot this year that should make it easier next year, especially with wanting to add more veggies, like carrots and cucumbers and peas!

20. 100 mile meal once a month
Well, considering the hours of Farmer's Markets are not all that convenient, and my test garden has only recently started mass producing the two whole veggie varieties I have, I haven't done this as much this summer as I had hoped. My hope when I made this list item was that that I would have more vegetables in my garden and then my produce would provide half of the 100 mile meal (potatoes, veggies, and spices) and then I'd just have to find local meat, and maybe a local made sauce or two. I hope to get one more visit into a local market and stock up a bunch of local food, and then freeze them to acheive some more 100 mile meals between now and next summer, but we'll see. I also found an actual store that proclaims all local produce, so we'll see what they have during the winter. Oh, and Fude, my new favorite Wpg restaurant uses all Manitoba grown/made food, so my birthday dinner there totally counts for my 100 mile meal in July, haha!
For now, my potato harvest will be a good chunk of our crock pot meal tonight, as well as some Canadian carrots, gotta start somewhere, right? :)
84. Start composting, get a kitchen compost caddy (NTKOG)
Honestly, 5 years ago I thought of myself as mostly a city girl, country living was a romantic notion for me, a fantasy that I just wasn't sure would ever happen. Especially not the down and dirty country living, like real homesteading, or the 'hippie' commune type living, the kind of worlds were composting seemed to belong. Then I became part of an environmental company, and made friends who made it seem a lot more feasible to have this lifestyle I idealized. Composting all of a sudden was an easy thing I could try, even currently being a 'city' girl.
So far, I haven't bought a compost caddy yet for the kitchen, but I have re-used some large containers and started building up some compostable scraps in the beginning of May for the compost hole I was going to dig in my back yard. I ended up digging my compost hole up when I was going to originally plant my garden, May long, and have been adding scraps to it ever since. Boy has it made for some really great soil to add to my garden!! It actually decomposes pretty quick and I've been able to move compost soil to my garden 3 times as of last night. I also added the last of scraps to my compost pile since I'm not sure if I'll be able to add to the pile again before it's too cold, and I don't want scraps stinking up my kitchen from now till next thaw.
And boy, my wormie friends are really loving my compost, I think when I first dug the hole I found about 4-5 worms, then the next time it was probably closer to 10, this time I couldn't stick my little spade in without pulling up 2 each time! Probably had 30-40 in there! Now to remove the annoying bush (#85) from my compost pile (actually it's a dirt bed for this bush, but I'd rather have the compost than the bush) so that I can actually have a big pile instead of a small 1 1/2 ft cubed hole. By next year I will have such good soil! How exciting for my future veggies!
89. Lawn care without pesticide/herbicide use
Part of my simpler and greener living was to treat my living things with simpler, greener and healthier solutions. I tried a vinegar, detergent, salt and water mixture I read up about but by the time I was able to spray it on our weeds (due to all that rain again) there were too many and they were too strong, for this mixture. I tried it twice but they just kept growing stronger than ever. To be fair, there were a lot more weeds than normal this year, and my neighbors who would rather spend their free time at the cabin didn't exactly stop theirs from spreading more to our yard. I don't think I caught them early enough either, so I will try again next year, having the mixture on hand and ready for the first sign of weeds to be trounced.
Same with pesticide for my garden. By the time I realized I had bugs I couldn't afford to take the time to make an organic pesticide. I'll be much better prepared next year and then I can better judge if it's something I'll be able to continue or need to modify again.
Overall, I'm very happy with my growing and greening in the few short months I've been working at it, and am already very excited for next spring summer, only 8 months to go...haha.

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